• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discussing Homicide - muder - actus reus.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

HOMICIDE 1. MURDER - ACTUS REUS The definition of murder is derived from the writing of the jurist Sir Edward Coke: 'Murder is when a [person]...unlawfully killeth...any reasonable creature in rerum natura under the Queen's peace, with malice aforethought...'. A bit of a mouthful, you may think! Anyway, let's look at actus reus of the wording - essentially, the unlawful killing of a human being - in a little detail. The word 'unlawfully' can be taken to exclude killings for which the accused has a complete and valid justification, such as killing in self-defence or in wartime. 'Killeth' or 'kills' means 'causes the death of', and I shall deal with causation soon. For the moment, take on board that murder is also a result crime and in accordance with the rule laid down by the House of Lords in R v MILLER [1983] 1 All ER 978 - HL (the cigarette that caused the fire) there is a duty to act in the face of a danger one has created oneself. 'Any reasonable creature in rerum natura' can be safely shortened to 'any human being'. This therefore excludes any 'baby' in a womb, so if death is caused before the child has an existence independent of its mother, there can be no murder. This is now settled law following the House of Lords' decision in ATTORNEY-GENERAL's REFERENCE (No. 3 of 1994) [1998] AC 245 HL. This leaves us with the question of what happens if a baby is born and later dies because of an attack on its mother by the defendant whilst in the womb. ...read more.

Middle

Their actions did not break the chain because they were reasonable acts of self preservation or defence and/or because they were analogous to involuntary acts done in performance of a legal duty; and that, since shooting back at the defendant was a natural consequence of his having shot first, he remained responsible. I must confess that I find it difficult to see why the police response was a natural one foreseeable as likely to happen in the ordinary course of events or why it was a reasonable act of self preservation: the police could have withdrawn, surely? Clearly, the decision not to prosecute the police was a policy decision. The second exception to the rule is that if the defendant's conduct is not the operative cause of death but an abnormality in the victim is, then the defendant has committed the actus reus. So, if I chase you down the street and, due to a heart condition, you have a heart attack and die, then I have killed you. You see, the courts have always held that a defendant must take a victim subject to his physical and mental condition. In tort, this is known as the 'egg shell skull' principle. In short, a defendant must always take a victim as he finds him. A case that you may find astonishing here, is R v BLAUE (1975) 1 WLR 1411 - CA. The defendant had stabbed the victim 13 times, and she was rushed to hospital where doctors diagnosed a blood transfusion as being the only way to save her. The victim, a Jehovah's Witness, refused and consequently died. ...read more.

Conclusion

Thinking the victim was dead, the defendants then rolled him over a cliff to fake an accident. The victim was alive when rolled over the cliff and died later from exposure. The defendants were found guilty of murder. So, what do we make of this case? Well, it seems that if death is caused during a series of acts as part of a pre-conceived plan, then the earlier mens rea is sufficient for a conviction. Inevitably, then, what if there is no earlier pre-conceived plan? It appears that the approach will be the same where the conduct which causes death was either undertaken in order to conceal the earlier conduct which was accompanied by mens rea; or where it is part of the same transaction, like FAGAN. You can see this in another 'disposal' case, R v LE BRUN (1991) 4 AER 673 - CA, where the defendant was found guilty when his conduct caused the death of his wife despite the fact that he lacked mens rea at the time that he killed her. He was guilty because, when he had hit her earlier, he had had mens rea and the act that caused her death was done in order to conceal his assault on her. OK, folks, well that is murder. However, if you're in a mood for some in depth thought about murder in the context of doctors going around wards injecting terminally ill patients with overdoses of pain relieving drugs in order to put them out of their misery (thereby creating extra bed space!), then read the article 'Summing up intention' NLJ August by Simon Cooper - it makes grim and thought provoking reading. In the next lecture we'll take a peek at manslaughter. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Law of Tort section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Law of Tort essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Taking selected areas of the civil and or criminal law, evaluate whether sportsmen and ...

    4 star(s)

    He was sentenced to four months in jail but this was later reduced to 28 days. Also in the case of R v Blissett (the independent) 4/12/1992 in the course of a challenge during a football match the victim sustained a fractured cheekbone and eye socket, the defendant was cleared of violent conduct.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Homicide Act 1957

    3 star(s)

    defence it could only arise from an abnormality of the mind, which is induced by the disease of alcoholism, which impaired mental responsibility substantially. In R v. Dietschmann, Lord Hutton stated that there are two circumstances where the effects of alcohol can be regarded as an abnormality of the mind,

  1. The terms Actus Reus and Mens Rea

    Previous to this decision there was a prerequisite requirement of an intention to kill whereas now all that is required is that the defendant has the mens rea to cause some harm. A practical example of this is if A punches B intending to cause grievous bodily harm and B

  2. Using actual situations, describe the elements of actus reus and mens rea in criminal ...

    plus the consequence of actual bodily harm (any injury, including psychiatric, even a scratch or a bruise). The mens rea for this offence does not include any intention to cause actual bodily harm or recklessness as to whether such harm is caused and so the defendant is guilty even if he did not intend to cause an injury.

  1. negligence in tort

    The treatment must be in the patients 'best interests'. The best interests test remains the most appropriate standard for providing treatment for patients who are incompetent and have left no ascertainable views as to how they wish to be treated.

  2. Any crime in law is made up of two elements, the actus reus which ...

    The actus reus of battery is the application of unlawful force on another. The mens rea of battery is the application of unlawful force or subjective recklessness as to whether unlawful force is applied to another. Examples of battery include punching, slapping, kicking pushing, hitting someone with a stick, stone

  1. Murder, manslaughter, assaults, sexual offences and defences.

    He was in a sudden rage; he was armed with a knife, with which he planed to threaten James with if he gave him any further abuse. Therefore, Jack would be liable for s.20 of the OAPA 1861. Section 20 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 S.20 OAPA penalises 'Whosoever

  2. In this report, the differences between contractual liability and tortuous liability are explained. In ...

    Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a duty on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others arising from work activities. Employers must also make arrangements to ensure the health and safety of the workplace, including making arrangements for emergencies, adequate information and training for employees and for health surveillance where appropriate.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work